Trade Targets: Middle Infield

Continuing our Trade Targets series, here are five middle infielders who could be available at (or before) the deadline.

PLAYER: Jose Reyes
TEAM: Mets
POSSIBLE DESTINATION(S): Giants, Reds, Brewers
CONTRACT STATUS: $11 million, free agent after the season
PROJECTED WAR: 3.3

The 27-year-old Jose Reyes would be the prize acquisition of this trading season if the Mets choose to move him. He’s got his walk rate and power back and looks healthy. But nothing is set in stone. Yes, his owner has disparaged him and his contract demands before they were officially made. Yes, the rumor is that his general manager has talked to every team in baseball about every player on his roster. Yes, his oscillating walk rate and iffy health make him a risky long-term signing. But nothing is set in stone.

Most likely, Sandy Alderson is going to quietly ask Reyes and his representation to submit their first demands before deciding if his popular shortstop is even signable. If he is, even the reduced payroll next year (reportedly around $100 million) would allow for one good signing and Reyes could be that guy. If not, Alderson will have plenty of serious suitors in a year where the average shortstop is putting up a .260/.318/.372 line. Given the owner’s comments, however, a trade seems more likely.

Even if the Red Sox could trump the Giants’ offer for Reyes, their interest level has changed. With Jed Lowrie playing like they believed he could, Marco Scutaro on the mend and Drew Sutton providing depth, Boston is probably set at the position. The Giants could offer Zach Wheeler and some secondary parts, and the Mets — now last in starting pitcher WAR — would enjoy that infusion of talent. If that price seems too strong, consider that the Giants GM has historically shown a belief in TINSTAAP (There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect). The Reds could offer pieces closer to the major leagues in Homer Bailey and Zach Cozart, if they wanted. They certainly have an offensive hole at short now. It’s unclear if the Brewers have enough left in their cupboard to be real contenders for Reyes.

PLAYER: J.J. Hardy
TEAM: Orioles
POSSIBLE DESTINATION(S): Giants, Reds, Brewers
CONTRACT STATUS: $5.85 million, free agent after the season
PROJECTED WAR: 2.4

The projected WAR in this case might catch some eyes. Hardy has only topped the number three times in a full season over his career. But that’s the rub — health. The 28-year-old has had trouble staying in the lineup, and this projection assumes that he manages another 350 plate appearances over the rest of the season. That’s no small assumption.

But his value, when healthy, is real. He’s been a positive with the glove every season he’s played. Though he’s a little less than scratch with the bat over his career, he walks at about an average rate and has shown the capacity for league-average power. That combination of skills alone puts him ahead of most shortstops. He’s also cheaper than Reyes in both dollars and prospects required, which makes him slightly more attractive despite his health problems.

The same suitors will call Andy MacPhail and Sandy Alderson, most likely. Would the Brewers reunite with their former shortstop? Would the Orioles be interested in San Francisco’s Thomas Neal, or do they feel like their corner outfield is not a priority? What would the Reds give up for Hardy? Unless behind-the-scenes negotiations with Hardy’s agent are currently underway, we’ll most likely get the answer to one of these questions.

PLAYER: Rafael Furcal
TEAM: Dodgers
POSSIBLE DESTINATION(S): Giants, Reds, Brewers
CONTRACT STATUS: $13 million, free agent after the season
PROJECTED WAR: 1.5

If Hardy has health issues, then Rafael Furcal has full-blown health problems. In the past five years alone, he’s hit the DL five times, for everything from broken thumbs to microdiscectomies. It’s that last phrase that is most worrisome, as his back alone has accounted for 183 missed days since 2008. Back problems can be scary.

On the other hand, even in his decline the 33-year-old is an offensive option at a tough position. His glove has ranged from about +5 to -5, but call him a scratch defender with an above-average rest-of-season wOBA and you see that he has some trade value. Given that the Dodgers have Jamey Carroll at $2.3 million this season and are having much-publicized problems making payroll, they are strongly motivated to move their more famous shortstop.

If the Dodgers’ trading partner is willing to take on all of the rest of the cash on the deal, they would probably have to give up fewer prospects. Perhaps that makes Milwaukee the more likely destination, considering their dearth of prospects. That would certainly help the Dodgers save face compared to sending Furcal north to help the hated Giants reach the postseason once again.

PLAYER: Mike Aviles
TEAM: Royals
POSSIBLE DESTINATION(S): Jays, Indians, Tigers, Marlins
CONTRACT STATUS: $640K, free agent after the 2014 season
PROJECTED WAR: 1.5

The cheapest player on this list, Mike Aviles also has the most question marks. What is his true position? Is he a perennial .300 hitter despite his current batting average? Is that enough value to overcome his lack of power, patience, or defensive value? Does his team even want to trade him? Why wouldn’t the Royals trade Wilson Betemit, who will be a free agent after his $1 million contract expires at the end of the season?

The answers are not easy, but they point to his availability. Aviles has been better, by UZR/150, at second base than third base over his career, and his arm (especially post-Tommy John) is not his best quality. At second base, the team has Chris Getz, who has even less power, but features a strong walk rate and a strong glove. Even at third base, Mike Moustakas is knocking on the door and should be up at some point this season. It seems the Royals value batting average, but they’ve seen enough of the 30-year-old Aviles to know about his flaws. With the team nine games out and behind three teams, they might even trade both Aviles and Betemit.

Since these two guys are not shortstops, their list of suitors is a little different. If the Blue Jays don’t want to rush Brett Lawrie, or want to give him a caddy, Mike Aviles might make sense in Toronto. The Indians have a gaping hole at third base, and Lonnie Chisenhall could use more seasoning. The Tigers are obviously having problems at second base and seem to be in win-now mode. The Marlins have not had a good third baseman since Mike Lowell. Since Aviles is still under control for a few years, he won’t be as cheap as you might expect for a player with his skill set. But he’ll still be gettable.

PLAYER: Jack Wilson
TEAM: Mariners
POSSIBLE DESTINATION(S): Giants, Brewers, Yankees
CONTRACT STATUS: $5 million, free agent after the season
PROJECTED WAR: 0.4

Jack Wilson can be had for a song. Literally, another GM could sing a song to Jack Zduriencik and be awarded Jack Wilson for his efforts. It’s not that Wilson has been so different in Seattle than he was in Pittsburgh, though. He hasn’t walked, but he never did. He hasn’t shown power, but he never did. He’s made plenty of contact and played a good defensive shortstop, as he always has. It’s just that he can’t stay on the field — he’s only just now collected over 300 plate appearances in Seattle, in his second year.

So he can be had cheaply. Given his muted offensive upside and health problems, the 33-year-old shortstop probably more interesting as a defensive replacement for a juggernaut team. That means the Yankees could swoop in and install him as their late-inning utility man, and if they paid the rest of the contract, they wouldn’t have to give up much more than a low-A flier arm to get him. Of course, the usual suspects could just get Wilson to supplement their current options at shortstop. He still wouldn’t make sense in Cincinnati, as they are starting a defensive replacement right now anyway.

The Mariners also have Adam Kennedy on the block, as top prospect Dustin Ackley should be up sometime this year. Kennedy is cheap and a free agent at the end of the year, and he could be helpful to any of the teams that don’t want to pay for Mike Aviles but do want an upgrade at second or third. Another player in the middle infield that might change teams is Clint Barmes. The Astros have him on a $3.93 million contract for the rest of the season and if they know what’s good for the team, should probably take whatever offer comes their way. But they are still the Astros, and they don’t always sell when they should.




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33 Responses to “Trade Targets: Middle Infield”

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  1. Athletics005 says:

    I think the giants need to big up a SS or catcher with Posey out. They cant have Tejada starting and Whiteside isn’t a good offensive player. I think Hardy is a good option because he is cheaper to get and is a solid hitter. If they could get Reyes that would obviously be huge because they need a SS, lead off guy, and speed and he fits all of these.

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  2. Adam W says:

    Quick note on the Sox – Lowrie could man the hot corner if they acquire Reyes. Ortiz is probably not getting resigned, which means that Youkilis will probably DH full time (unless he slides back to 1B and Gonzo becomes the DH). Still, I doubt they pursue Reyes in a trade rather than as an FA, since the farm is somewhat depleted after the Gonzo trade, and they have a pretty significant amount of money coming off the books next year (Ortiz, Cameron, Drew, Scutaro, and likely Papelbon).

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    • Doug says:

      This seems like a waste… Gonzalez has a (deserved) reputation as a fantastic defender, and Youkilis has been a plus defensively as well (excluding this year, but I’d wait and see whether his defensive numbers improve before slotting him in as the heir apparent to Ortiz).

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      • Fred says:

        Youkilis is no longer a plus (or possibly even average) 3rd baseman, that was many years and many pounds ago. While he’ll get a bit better with reps and his bat is beyond good enough to compensate you can see he’s declined from his early days just watching him. He’s by no means a butcher at 3rd, but let’s he’s a different player now then when he came up.

        And Gonzalaz has a career UZR/150 of 1.3; yet the fantastic defender meme continues to live on. He has a fantastic reputation but it is just that….a reputation. He’ll win a gold glove this year based on the value of his bat and this ‘reputation’. His range component is below average and barring one monster year his double play component of UZR is average – His slightly plus career UZR/150 is mainly based on ErrR (which can be a bit subjective)

        As a comparison Derek Lee has a career UZR/150 of 0.9, Mark Teixera has a career UZR/150 of 4.6, Morneau 5.6.

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      • Nat Haniel says:

        UZR was never meant to be taken seriously in 40 game samples. Really. Look it up.

        In the few games I’ve seen him play 3B, Youkalis is fine <- also meaningless. Regardless… I suspect Youkalis is not going to be a DH anytime soon.

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      • Fred says:

        So what should we use data from ? He’s maxed out at ~500innings in any single year at 3rd (he’s at ~400 this year)

        Show me where he is plus defensively if we are completely disregarding ~50games…

        In 2009 he played ~500 innings at 3rd and UZR had him below average. (this besides 2004, also ~500innings, was the season where he played a lot at 3rd base)

        Take away one good year in 2004 and his career UZR at 3rd is below 0. He just isn’t the guy at 3rd people remember him as… he’s 32, heavier and doesn’t play as well as he did when he was ~25. Yes, UZR needs to be taken with a grain of salt… but that doesn’t mean completely disregard it… the data just doesn’t support “plus” and if you regress it, based on the small sample size you’ll get average (but that’s more because it’s a small sample size than anything else)

        To say he is ‘plus’ defensively is to bury your head in the sand and pretend it’s Youk in 2004 (which also was limited data). While certainly adequate at 3rd (especially considreing his bat), I don’t see him as above average defensively and by the end of the year the data may show him to be below average.

        “Look it up” Really…. “look it up”

        I also don’t know how someone who has a CAREER UZR/150 of 1.3 has a (deserved) fantastic defensive reputation…

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    • KyleL says:

      I think it’s more likely that the Sox would be looking to move some of their own middle infielders rather than bring in another one. They actually have an overabundance of middle infielders with Lowrie, Scutaro, Iglesias, Navarro, and Sutton, with Tejeda maybe another year away. They have pretty much already decided Iglesias is their future SS anyway.

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    • B N says:

      I agree that the Sox would acquire Reyes for the right price, but I disagree that it would make sense to put Youkilis at DH. While he’s not a plus 3B anymore, he’s still around average or just below average at the position (I’d estimate maybe -3 runs/150 games or so). Given that he’d rate in the top 5 3B in hitting, it seems pretty unthinkable to move him out of the position for a player that hits much worse (e.g. Lowrie) for a small defensive bump.

      Moreover, just on hitting abilities, which of those combinations do you like better?
      A. Lowrie, Youk, Ortiz
      B. Lowrie, Youk, Reyes
      C. Youk, Reyes, (Best DH on the FA market)

      I don’t see Reyes as being a better at the plate than Ortiz. And I don’t see Reyes as a big improvement over Lowrie at SS either. So your proposal seems like a big payout for fairly neutral outcome. I think it would be more likely they’d end up using Lowrie as a super-utility man and sign a real DH who would increase their total firepower.

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  3. Jross says:

    Do you think the Rays are fine with their current situation at SS? Can you see them getting Wilson for a year and letting Reid get another year in the minors?

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  4. nolan says:

    I really enjoyed the article, but I doubt Adam Kennedy is on the trading block.

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    • Why not?

      He has been productive so far, but he is 35 years old and is a free agent at the end of the season. Even if he’s been one of the more productive hitters of late, the Mariners aren’t married to the guy…

      Basically one of Wilson / Kennedy are going to have to be moved for Ackley to come up and play regularly. Unless the Mariners somehow find a trade partner for Figgins, that is, so that Kennedy can play third and Ackley play second. Or if you believe the rumors that they’ll have Ackley play left field.

      But, all things considered, Wilson and Kennedy are both expendable. Brandan Ryan is finally hitting and playing good defense and Dustin Ackley needs someplace to play.

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  5. Jon S. says:

    I’m a little surprised St Louis isn’t in this discussion. The middle infield has one shortstop (Greene) and he’s yet to price he’s a major leaguer. The starting shortstop is a second baseman, and the starting second baseman is either an outfielder or a failed third baseman converted to an outfielder depending on the day. It’s a real mess, and they’re one of the best teams in the league. Imagine the Cardinals with a proper middle infield.

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    • Brandon Ryan may not be the sexist hitter in the universe, but he has a slick glove. So they had a good middle infielder and gave him away. Thus, any trades the Cardinals have to do come with the caveat that the middle infielder must be someone who can get along with Tony LaRussa.

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  6. Nate says:

    Reyes to the Brewers. That’d be some line up.

    Reyes
    Weeks
    Braun
    Fielder
    Hart
    McGehee
    LuCroy
    Gallardo
    4A CF

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  7. BronxOrioleFan says:

    The Brewers are batting Gallardo every day? And they’ve moved Hart to the 5 spot? I had no idea.

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  8. Daniel says:

    I kind of wonder if the Giants will be in a position to make a deal at the deadline. Posey was a huge part of that offense and it was still scuffling. That rotation is always good, but their lineup is downright pitiful right now, who’s to say they’ll be in contention? If they’re floating just above .500 at the deadline, would it really be worth it?

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    • Judlowismabudlow says:

      Um, if the Giants are “floating just above .500 at the deadline”, they’ll be in first place. This *is* the 2011 NL West we’re talking about here.

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  9. Antonio Banans says:

    I’m wondering if Uggla continues to hit like shit if Atlanta will try to pick up a decent 2B for half a year and sit Uggla. I doubt they will because Fgonz has the same confidence in players Cox had. Pretty much anyone’s production would be better than Uggla’s at this point.

    Then again, trades don’t really happen except until after the All Star break. Hopefully by then Uggla will be getting back on track.

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  10. Brew Crew Fanatic says:

    Since when do the Brewers have ANY viable prospects to acquire a player such as Jose Reyes????? They had the worst farm system in baseball before they traded Odorizzi, and their prospects with decently high ceilings are years away and unproven at the minor league level

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  11. Robbie G. says:

    Would Oakland be interested in Jose Reyes? That is a winnable division right there and Billy Beane surprised us a couple of years ago when he traded for Matt Holliday. Reyes would certainly be a huge upgrade over Cliff Pennington as well as whoever is presently batting in the leadoff spot for the A’s, and Beane would get his compensation draft picks if/when (okay, when) Reyes signs with a big spender this winter. Otherwise, I agree that the Giants appear to be the most likely destination for Reyes.

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  12. Dan says:

    Mike Aviles would make no sense for the Indians. The very slight upgrade in hitting he would provide is less valuable to them than Hannahan’s defense, which is gold-glove worthy. Between Grady, Santana and Asdrubal they have enough bats in traditionally low-power places to carry Hannahan’s bat.

    If they trade for a position player, it’s a 1st or 2nd baseman. Push O-Cab to utility, or LaPorta off the team.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      Mike Aviles is a second baseman? Also, an offense/defense platoon at third would work too.

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      • Dan says:

        He plays second, third and short, and this article implied he’d replace Jungle Jack at the hot corner.

        The Tribe have way too much of a sinker-heavy pitch-to-contact pitching staff for a defense/offense platoon, IMO. I’m fine with a strictly defensive option at 3rd.

        I’d just be happy if they give Phelps a shot at 2nd, let O-Cab be the utility man, and test the market for a 1st baseman…although I’d hate to see them mortgage the farm for one. If the Cubs are still out of it in a month, I’d think Carlos Pena would come fairly cheap and be a decent fit.

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  13. Charlie says:

    Indians have gaping hole at 3rd? you need to check out our stellar glove there, Jack Hannahan

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  14. Dave G says:

    Slightly off topic, but don’t the Angels have a guy in their farm system that plays short and could be a good fit as a trade piece for Reyes? Jean Segura?

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  15. jrogers says:

    Wait, the team that developed Lincecum, Cain, J.Sanchez, and Bumgarner doesn’t believe in pitching prospects? Imagine the rotation they’d have if they did believe!

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